Go to Greece: 5 Tips to Enjoy Santorini With Little Kids
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While it may come to mind as a traditional honeymoon destination, days spent perched on the caldera of Santorini can be just as magical with a baby or toddler in tow. We had been warned repeatedly not to visit with little kids because of the endless stairs, cliff edges and rocky beaches. While some say it is too busy and you should skip it in favor of other islands, we went with our baby and loved (almost) everything about it.
If heading to Greece is on your family's bucket list, here are our tips for enjoying Santorini with a baby or toddler along for the ride.
1. Be Prepared to Babywear
You can use your stroller in parts of the towns of Fira and Oia, but overall there are a lot of stairs and someone needs to be prepared to babywear. My husband did the bulk of the work with the baby strapped to his front, but we did occasionally trade-off. A boat trip and a day with a car broke up the babywearing duties.
We did also keep our folding stroller with us at restaurants if we thought we could get him to snooze while we ate our moussaka. (Here are some of TPG's favorite travel strollers.) To save on our backs, we didn't cover a lot of ground. The beauty of Santorini is in the view. My son loved climbing up and down the white stone steps, but of course use caution as they are far from carpeted.
2. Rent a Car for a Day
We rented a car, with a car seat, from our hotel for one day to explore the island, seeing the Akrotiri lighthouse, Red Sand Beach and stopping for lunch near Black Sand Beach. Our son fell asleep in the car, so my husband stayed with him while I did a hike around the lighthouse.
While you see others zooming around the island on their ATVs, it's nice to have a car and car seat for your little one. We were not asked for an international driver's license when driving in Greece, but it's a requirement when renting a car and worth checking into beforehand.
The taxis are shared, so it can be a bit off-putting when another couple (likely honeymooners) are shoved into your taxi next to you. We took one from the airport to the hotel and then not again. The public bus is a great option and even has air conditioning and cushioned seats.
3. Where to Stay in Santorini With Kids
A key to the success of our Santorini stay was staying at a hotel with amazing sunset views and a room with a balcony. We could put our son to sleep each night and step outside with the door open to share a drink while watching the sunset over the caldera. In the morning, we had breakfast with the cheery waitstaff that cuddled our son and regaled us with stories of the island.
When we first looked at hotels, we came across a few that did not allow children. Luckily we found the family-friendly Volcano View Hotel for $360 per night and booked through Hotels.com/Venture using my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card for 10x the miles. (Offer ends Jan. 31, 2020) The stay also counted toward earning the 10th night free in the Hotels.com program, effectively a 20% return.
Renting an Airbnb with a view could achieve the same magic sunset watching/sleeping baby combo. And don’t forget to pay with a card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, that will earn you bonus points on travel.
For my next return to the island, I would like to visit the two Marriott properties: Mystique, a Luxury Collection Hotel, at which every room has a balcony (Category 7, 60k Marriott points) or Vedeema, a quieter property on the other end of the island (Category 7, Marriott 60k points). However, I won't be staying at the Mystique with my toddlers anytime soon as that property is restricted to those 13+ years old. The Vedeema is open to younger kids.
If you need more Marriott points to make your Greek dreams come true, American Express just relaunched several Marriott Bonvoy cobranded credit cards. Find out which Marriott Bonvoy credit card is right for you.
4. Get Out on the Water
The volcanic nature of Santorini means that all the beaches are made of colored stone pebbles that give the beaches their names (Black, Red, etc.), rather than soft white sand found on other islands. While it is one of the only places in the world to see the different colored sands on the same island, we spent about three minutes on the rough Red Beach and soon followed the advice that the best way to see Santorini was from the water.
We booked with Caldera Yachting on a "semi-private" cruise with all honeymooners who were extremely welcoming of our baby. Also, the boat had a bedroom, so the baby took a nap down there with my husband out of the sun. When anchored, my husband and I took turns jumping off the boat while the other held the baby and ate a delicious lunch.
We paid $160 each for the half-day cruise, including lunch, local wine, snorkel equipment and pickup from our hotel (baby was free).
5. Avoid Tourist Traps
Santorini gets busy, and in order to see the famous sunset at the Castle of Oia, you need to arrive early and stake out a spot. We did so and enjoyed watching it, but if it was high season, we would have struggled with the crowds. There are many alternative spots to catch the sunset such as Santo Winery or from the water on a sunset cruise. Our previously mentioned hotel balcony also served this purpose quite well.
On another day, we took the cable car down the caldera near the ferries and then spotted a sign for a donkey taxi for 5 euros ($6) to go back up the famous 588 steps of the old Karavolades stairs. I took 10 euros ($11) out of my bag and soon we were separated — my husband and son were on a donkey climbing the side of the caldera while I was still at the bottom waiting for the next group.
The donkeys couldn’t stop as they were in a pack together. I feared the whole time that my husband and baby were going to tumble off the side of the caldera as I watched them from behind. We made it to the top and vowed to avoid animals as transportation in the future.
When choosing a destination to travel to with your baby or toddler, the Greek Islands are a great choice. Once you've survived the flight, you may as well be somewhere breathtaking. Your honeymoon isn't your only chance to relax and take in a location like Santorini, so pack your baby or toddler along with your sunscreen.
Would you bring your baby or toddler to stair-laden Santorini? Have you been?
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